McCloud (Ash Camp)
|Stretch:||Ash Camp to Ah-di-na Campground|
|Distance:||2.5 miles (half day)|
|Flows:||450 - 1500 cfs. Current Dreamflows Gauge (at McCloud Dam - Put-in) and Gauge (at Shasta - Take-out)|
|Gradient:||104 fpm average|
|Put-in:||Ash Camp (or at the dam)|
|Shuttle:||~ 7 miles, dirt road|
|Season:||Whenever they release water|
For some reason there is virtually no beta on this run, at least none that involves water actually being in the river bed. Jefferson State has a low water write-up, Stanley Holbek has a write-up but mentions two portages due to low water, and Cassidy/Calhoun mention it being class V with several portages (wrong as usual). Virtually all that could be found was on cacreeks where Mark Twitchell said the 2.5 mile stretch was mostly class IV with 2 that were class Vish. He also stated that they boat scouted everything (which they occasionally regretted) and portaged one boulder mess.
The last bit of beta was pretty right on. There were long stretches of class IV, just amazingly fun whitewater, a few big drops, and continuous current in between. More so, even with the knowledge that boat scouting your way down rapids may lead to regret, we pushed on to lower eddies. Only once did this really bite us in the butt. The last big rapid has a class IV lead in which then cliffs up, has one blind micro eddy, and disappears into a rock jumble. Luckily it went, but we were all a little scared trying not to fall out of the one boat eddy with three of us in it. Luckily for me, the fourth and fifth boat had no where to go but into the rapid and gave the line once they rolled up from their mishaps.
I thought this run was an absolute classic. Great rapids, pretty turquoise water, quick miles, and great scenery made this run a must when 850 cfs are coming out of the dam. I am still amazed at how good of a time we had doing this run. If I were to go back for one day of boating on the lower McCloud, I will do laps on this upper stretch. Even with some 7 miles of driving, our first time down the river took us less than an hour, the second time I think would take more like 20 minutes.
Ok, one last thing. The day we ran this we ran all the way down to Shasta Reservoir. Because of this I am not 100% certain where Ah-di-na was, but we say two possibilities as we flew by. I would just check the river to recognize the take-out as you paddle up, because it couldnít be obvious as the shore line is covered in greens and it all looks the same, furthermore, there is non stop current so it would be easy to pass up in which case you would be committed to running another 20 miles to the nearest access.
A disclaimer, the river is so continuous it was extremely hard to get photos of rapids while I was still near them, because of this, nearly all of the photos are from within the boat and from well downstream, making the drops look small.
- Down the Right (IV). No warm up, the first rapid is a long read and run down the right side. Good fun that ends in a river-wide fan rock that can be avoided on either side.
Small Cascade (III+). No real clean lines exist. You can either go far left or middle and dodge some rocks.
Ledges (IV). A absolutely superb stretch of ledges with eddies to catch. Really fun.
Cascade (IV+). A bit cascade is clean(ish) on the left side. We dropped into a big hole which then flushes you over the cascade and into another big hole. The first big has bigger teeth than we imagined and gave one of us a ride.
Chunky then Run-out (IV+). I only got a picture of the bottom drop which was the easy part, and even it is from so far away that you canít tell its size. There was a spot to scout from on the left at the very top, once you go down the entrance ramp, you are pretty committed. The right 9/10 of the river is a cascade that was too rocky for our taste. On the left side of the river, there was a small channel that led to a sweet 5 foot boof. There was then a really small pool. The bottom section had several large holes in it that we took center moving right.
- Tree (III+). This rapid would be cake if it were not for a tree blocking the main channel, oh and that you have to commit to the rapid to see that there is a tree there. Once you do, you catch the eddy above it, and carry your boat back to the top of the rapid (luckily this part isnít cliffed out) and paddle to the other side of the river where you then bang your way down the rapid.
Sharp Left (IV). To tell you the truth, I canít remember if this rapid was before or after the tree. Regardless, there is an eddy on the left at the top, this allows you to see just about nothing. The rapid ramps down the right and makes a very sharp left turn, the inside of which drops into a pour-over hole.
Whoops (V-). This is the big one that gets everyone committed to it before they realize the end is completely blind. There is a long class IV lead in which then carries straight into the final drop. From the micro eddy at the lip, the river loses some 8 feet, and due to large boulders blocking the top, you can only see about 100 feet downriver. There is some green slack water in the middle of the river at the lip that allows you to peer down the rapid and see a clear path. This was how our forth boater (see the story in the intro) knew it kinda went before he was swept into it. Once you are in the middle of the river, in the slack water with a view, you are committed to running it immediately after the view. Anyways, the line was down the middle doing a quick s-turn into a large fold and into a large hole that took everyone pretty deep. Afterwards, though some of us didnít have clean lines, we all had smiles.
Things then abruptly get easier and you are treated to continuous class II. Start looking for take-out.
Take-out: In the town of McCloud on Highway 89, take Squaw Valley Road. Continue down to the lake. Ignore the turn that leads 100 yards down to a boat ramp (that is the Upper McCloud take-out). After following the lake you will go up a short arm of the lake, there is a dirt road at the end of the arm. Follow this dirt road 6 miles to Ah-di-na campground.
Put-in: Return to the paved road, and continue on it around the lake. You will see the dam after a mile or so. On the far side of the dam is a dirt road that drops down to the river. There is a path that leads to the penstock which I might try using next time as it would add about a half mile of class III+ to IV rapids. Or you can continue down the road to Ash Camp. The camp would make for excellent day before camping, it is very pretty and even has a porta-potty.
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